The area now bearing the name of Kaliningrad region has been an attractive piece of land for many centuries. German and Prussian knights, lords and landowners enjoyed its natural beauty, leaving behind almost 200 original estates, once-manicured gardens and impressive castles. Check out the five that are in the best shape until this day.
This lonely castle in the forest on the bay shore dates back to the 5th century, when the peninsula was separated by a small pass. In the 13th century, the crusaders took on these Prussian lands, and in 1239, the Teutonic knights captured the wooden fortress, rebuilt it and changed the name from Honede to Balgea (later Balga).
Over time, it became the Order’s residence and the base for further campaigns. The castle was gradually rebuilt in stone in the 16th century, but soon it started to collapse because of the bay waters washing away the shore. It was restored in the 19th century; however once again badly damaged by shelling during the WWII, with only the tower, Forburg, and the castle church preserved.
Shaaken (in Nekrasovo)
A Teutonic Order castle built around 1270 on the site of the wooden Prussian fortress about four kilometers from the Curonian lagoon. Throughout its history, it was an orphanage, a farm with stables, and living quarters. At some point, it was partly ruined, but has been recently restored. Today, the castle is experiencing its birth anew and welcoming guests to join entertainment projects and tours. The place can boast of an impressive fireplace room, stables, museum of Inquisition (in the basement), and a display of siege weapons.
Insterburg (in Chernyakhovsk)
A defense fortress built of wooden logs in 1336 on the site of the destroyed Prussian town of Unzetrapis. The historians are yet to determine when exactly it was rebuilt in stone. This is because the original stone building was destroyed twice during the wars in 1376 and 1457. Still, some outbuildings, the defensive wall and the framework of the citadel survived. Today, the place is being restored by enthusiasts and has been turned into a real cultural spot, attracting tourists for museum exhibits, art shows, handicraft workshops, festivals, and “A night at the museum” project.
Grünhoff (in Roshchino)
An old Teutonic estate was first mentioned in the 14th century as a place for breeding horses, mainly for the army. In 1697, a hunting lodge was built here, and later it was rebuilt into a baroque stone manor, with bas-reliefs of griffins and swans on the walls. In 1814, the estate was given to Field Marshal Count Friedrich Wilhelm von Bülow, as a royal present for his services to the fatherland.
After WWII, the magnificent estate was used as an administrative building, a health resort, a medical center, a club, a store, and a transit point for immigrants. The estate was almost destroyed, and the adjacent garden and park were desolated. Grünhoff’s history had almost come to an end when the estate was bought by an entrepreneur enthusiast. The plan is to restore the original castle, open a guest house, a small museum and a library.
Bledau (in Sosnovka)
One of the most well-preserved mansions in Kaliningrad region, Bledau was a significant estate already in the 15th century. It was first mentioned in the 14th century as a tavern. From the early 19th century the place was owned by the Tortilovich von Batocki-Fribe family, including Adolph Batocki, the chief president of East Prussia from 1914 to 1917.
Today the building accommodates a boarding school for acoustically challenged children. The park of the mansion, now looking like a mystical swampy forest, is particularly worth visiting. Spanning over 6.5 hectares, it still retains a typical manor combination of a regular front part. In the forest, you will find Caucasian lapins, white firs, hornbeams and ashes, beeches, lindens, elms, maples, hornbeams, and ancient oak trees.